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  • Writer's pictureMario Nicolais

A Colorado Supreme Court justice put principle over personal preference in two recent cases

When the Colorado Supreme Court issued twin pre-Christmas rulings denying political subdivisions government immunity from anti-discrimination laws, I really thought I would be writing a column lauding the outcome.

I thought I would be cheering the court’s decision to close a loophole through which organizations like Denver Health and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office could avoid responsibility for discriminatory actions. I felt sure that I would applaud precedent that protected vulnerable populations from undue harm.

I have spent a decade advocating policies meant to end discrimination against protected classes of people, particularly members of the LGBTQ community. I believe there should be no employer, private or public, beyond the reach of anti-discrimination laws. Consequently, I thought I would be celebrating another barrier to equality broken down by the court.

And then I read Justice Monica Marquez’s dissent.

The purest form of the law often lives in dissenting opinions. While majorities frequently represent disparate approaches cobbled together for the sake of issuing a decision, dissents do not suffer from such infirmities. Dissents do not need to be diluted in the name of compromise.

Written dissents are neither necessary nor regularly provided. When a judge dedicates time to drafting a dissent, it is for the exclusive purpose of enunciating important legal principles.

Over the past several years, I have found myself paying greater attention when I see a dissent written by Marquez. Most are eloquent and principled; she writes with a clean, clear, persuasive style.

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